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HealthHow severe weather conditions affect mental health

How severe weather conditions affect mental health

Imagine strolling down a sunlit street, feeling the warmth on your face.
Life is good. Now, picture the same scene but with torrential rain, a dark skies and chilling winds leave you soaked and miserable. Life feels tough.

This raises a crucial question: How do severe weather conditions affect mental health, mood, thoughts, and behaviour? Psychologists have been grappling with this query for years.

PIA’s survey the significant influence of extreme weather conditions on mental well-being,
including meteorological occurrences that pose both physical and emotional challenges.

It also uncovers a variety of outcomes, including heightened stress, trauma, anxiety,
depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even sleep disturbances. Areas with
susceptibility to such events report elevated levels of mental health problems compared to
less-affected regions.

If you live in an area prone to severe weather, it’s important to recognise the potential risks
to your mental health.  Here we explore the various ways that severe weather conditions can affect mental health and how we can help ourselves and others to deal with them.

How do severe weather conditions affect mental health?

Severe weather conditions, like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and wildfires, can seriously
affect our mental well-being. These events can be very stressful and traumatic, leading to
various mental health problems:

1. Anxiety is when you feel uneasy, worried, or nervous. It can vary in intensity
and may lead to difficulties in concentration and sleep. Following severe weather,
individuals may experience concerns regarding their own safety and that of their
loved ones.

2. Depression is a mood disorder that brings emotions of sorrow, despair,
and a sense of inadequacy. It can change how you eat, sleep, and feel. After
experiencing severe weather, some individuals might find it challenging to cope or
experience happiness in their lives.

3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that
may arise following a distressing incident. It can include flashbacks, nightmares, and
trouble sleeping or concentrating. After severe weather, some may keep reliving the
event or struggle to feel safe.

4. Social isolation can be brought on by severe weather as individuals are confined to their homes or temporary shelters for prolonged periods. Exacerbated by disrupted communication and transportation networks, feelings of loneliness and helplessness can be brought on. Over time, persistent social
isolation may lead to the development of mental health issues.

How severe weather affects mental health in children and teens?

Kids and teens can be especially affected by severe weather. They might not have the same
tools as adults to cope with such scary events. Here are some common mental health
problems they may face:
1. Nightmares: Children who have experienced severe weather might have nightmares
about it, making it hard to sleep.
2. Fear: They may become afraid of the weather or of being alone. They might even
dread returning to where the event happened.
3. Anxiety: Worries about the future and safety can plague their thoughts, and it may
become tough to concentrate at school.
4. Depression: Some children may feel sad, withdrawn, or hopeless, and they might
lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

How to manage the mental health impact of severe weather

To deal with the mental health effects of severe weather, here are some steps you can take:

Talk to someone

Opening up to a trusted friend, family member or a professional therapist can be instrumental in navigating your emotions and experiences. This step is essential for both your physical and mental health.

Self-care

Make sure to eat healthy foods, get enough rest and sleep, and exercise regularly. Given the myriad benefits associated with yoga, integrating it into your daily regimen is a particularly wise choice. Together, these habits work harmoniously to alleviate stress and noticeably uplift your mood. Remember, exercising regularly and practicing yoga can also help minimise the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

Join a support group

Many support groups are available for people who have experienced severe weather events. These groups can provide a safe space to talk about your experiences and connect with others who understand what you are going through.

Seek professional assistance

If you are facing challenges, consider talking to a therapist. A therapist can help you to understand your challenges. They have valuable expertise in teaching effective coping techniques and assisting you in effectively managing your symptoms.

Recognising mental health

It is important to recognize that mental health is just as crucial as physical well-being. Our
emotional and psychological health can be influenced by a range of factors, including the
challenges posed by severe weather conditions. Furthermore, a recent report highlights a
concerning projection:

By 2040, one in five individuals in England may face significant health issues. Therefore, placing a premium on your overall well-being is essential, whether you are navigating the literal tempests of severe weather or the metaphorical storms of life.

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